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MIDI and Robots

We have a soft spot for robots…….

“Fingers” – guitarist for Compressorhead.
It is equipped with two hands, with a total of 78 fingers

People who tinker with robots, art installations and circuit bending are right in our wheelhouse .  They seem to share a passion  for pushing the limits of what MIDI can do.  Here’s a quick selection of some of our favorite MIDI robots curated from the web. 

Eric Singer and the League of Electronic Musical Robots (LEMUR)

When we first started The MIDI Association,we reached out to Eric Singer and he has been a member of our educational advisory panel since the very beginning. Eric founded The League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots, or LEMUR, in in 2000 , LEMUR is a group of artists and technologists developing robotic musical instruments that play themselves. Here an interview with Eric from Motherboard. 

Recently Eric did an installation for the LIDO nightclub in Paris. 

The Guitarbot is a guitar that can be played by MIDI files.

Eric Singer worked with another member of our educational advisory panel on this project. 

Paul Lehrman is the Director of the program in Music Engineering at Tufts University and an adjunct Professor in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering. Paul has had a long relationship with MIDI and actually released the first all MIDI album “The Celtic Macintosh” in 1986. Paul has also been on our educational advisory panel since it’s inception. 

Paul Lehrman showing Herbie Hancock the joy of MIDI.

Eric and Paul worked together on Anthiel’s Ballet Mecanique which was performed at Carnegie Hall and at the National Gallery of Art among many other performances around the world. 

Perhaps Eric’s most well known project (although he has worked with They Might Be Giants and many other musicians was he work with Pat Methany on the Orchestrion Project. 

Chico Macmurtrie and the Robotic Church

Somehow Brooklyn has become a haven for musical robots and there are a number of robotic MIDI artists working there. One of our favorites is Chico Macmurtrie.  His group, Amorphic Robot Works (ARW) created a robotic MIDI driven band of 50 pieces that toured Europe for many years.  Now he has “revived” these mechanical “saints” and 35 computer-controlled pneumatic sculptures ranging in size from 12 inches to 15 feet are installed in a former Norwegian Seaman’s Church in Redhook known as The Robotic Church, 

While responding to computer language (MIDI), they are anthropopathic in nature and channel air to activate their inner biology.

by Chico Macmurtrie

Octant Innards


Octant Innards

New Music, Musical Instruments, Videos, and Updates.

Matt Steinke’s dense, funny, haunting installations and performances feature everything from animatronic puppetry and meticulous animation to interactive homemade robotic sound apparatuses. Each piece offers an incomplete glimpse into an evocative, elegant, claustrophobic cosmos.

by -Bert Stabler

The following bio is from Matt’s website at http://matthewsteinke.com/info

Steinke holds a MFA in Art and Technology Studies from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Upon graduation, he received The Illinois Arts Council Fellowship for Interdisciplinary/Computer Art. He received the 2015 New Music USA Project Grant for Composers. His “Tine Organ” instrument was a finalist in the 2015 Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition. His work has been featured in Wired, Artweek LA, The Village Voice, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, Spin, Rolling Stone, Keyboard Magazine, Drum Magazine and on the cover of Tape Op. As a founding member of the Northwest noise-punk bands, Mocket and Satisfact, he has made over a dozen recordings for Kill Rockstars, K Records, and Up Records and has performed with his homemade robotic musical instrument ensemble, Octant, across the US.

His Tine organ is MIDI controlled. 

Tesla Coils, Robotic Drummers and MIDI, what’s not to like!


Tesla Coil Music | ArcAttack

Designers of the original Singing Tesla Coils, ArcAttack specializes in providing innovative entertainment, Tesla coil fabrication and creating unique things.

Compressorhead – the all robot band

Compressorhead has performed at festivals around the world doing covers of classic rock songs, but have their own studio album planned for this year. 

Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology

Gil Weinberg is the founding director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, where he established the M.S. and Ph.D. programs in Music Technology. He developed robots that interact with humans in uncannily well…. human ways. The Georgia Tech Center is really doing some interesting stuff with music technology!

Shimon has “eyes” that can respond to the conductor’s baton. 

Gil also worked to develop a prosthetic robotic hand for Jason Barnes, a drummer who lost an arm in a freak accident. Though technically not MIDI, it is a truly inspiring story. 

Guthman Musical Instrument Competition

If you don’t follow it, you should.  The Guthman musical instrument competition is held every year and there are always really cool and unique instruments that show up like the one below. 

Here’s a link to this year’s winners. 

Drones, MIDI and Thus Spake Zarathustra, need we say more?

Finally here is a link to an article from our friends over at CreatDigitalMusic about robots that even includes a MIDI controlled Roomba.